Racism Racism is defined by the Webster Dictionary as the assumption that the characteristics and abilities of an individual are determined by race and that one race is biologically superior to another. Confronted with a problem as complex as racism, we cannot afford to let ourselves be constrained by the boundaries of specific disciplines. Racism is alive and well. The reports of its demise are totally unfounded so that we come to the beginning of the twenty-first century, it remains as our society’s major dilemma. There is a lot at stake when dealing with this issue, but that fact is that we cannot brush it aside or ignore it any longer because it is present in everything we do.
Canada and the United States are one of the two biggest countries when it comes to ethnic diversities within its boundaries. Immigrants enter these countries by the thousands to better their chances of a good and stable life. The demographic statistics of these countries are rapidly rising. Immigrants are starting to take over and their presence is being felt more and more. Historically, both countries had their respective problems involving other races. When the British settlers first came to Canada, they were confronted with the Native Americans. Their goal was to claim land for England, but they also had to convert the aboriginal to the Catholic religion.
So against their will, the Native Americans were taught to worship a new God. The Whites were taking advantage of these primitive tribes living in and around the country. They played with their minds, giving them hard liquor, disguised as the Drink of Life. So the aboriginals were overwhelmed, and could not stop the invasion. They were defeated, forced to live in small territories, and some were turned into slaves. Americans were as bad, if not worst, toward racial groups. The most significant of the acts committed is the segregation of African American during the late eighteen hundreds until the mid-nineteen hundreds.
Black people were brought from Africa and were auctioned to the highest bidder to work in the cotton fields. Their working conditions were atrocious and a lot of them died of hunger or sickness. It’s not until the Civil War that the legal status of African Americans started to change. Even then, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down federal statutes designed to enforce the amendments. The absence of an adequate federal law permitted discrimination against black Americans in employment and housing, public accommodations, the judicial system, and voting opportunities.
In the two historic events, the possible reason for the actions done toward the racial minorities might be the fear the have towards them. We did not understand why they were different from us, so we categorised them and immediately judged them as the inferior race. Even though the history of both nations was different, their actions against racial minorities were similar to one another. Throughout the years, it seems that Canadians and Americans have excepted their immigrant counterparts. In both Canada and the United States, a range of indicators of racial attitudes shows certain positive trends.
In the United States, the National Academy of Sciences report, A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society, gleaned data from dozen of national opinion polls conducted between 1942 and 1983. These polls show growing and now virtually universal verbal commitment to the principle of racial equality. The disparities between the Whites and the Blacks have declined significantly. In Canada, race is less conspicuous. Without doubt the climate in Canada too has improved since the Second World War, when racially exclusionary immigration policies were still in effect. For its study, The Economic and Social Impact of Immigration, the Economic Council of Canada assembled data from existing surveys of intolerance. The council reported a positive trend among anglophones on an index of tolerance.
A survey conducted in 1990 by Decima Research Ltd. permits a comparison of the two countries. The Canadians in the survey were, overall, slightly less overtly racist than the Americans: 90 percent of Canadians and 86 percent of Americans agreed that all races are created equal (Maclean’s, 1990). This difference is insubstantial. Large minorities in both countries deny overt racism. Canadians favour immigrations more than Americans do, despite the fact that racial-minority immigration is currently greater in Canada. In the 1990 Decima survey, 58 percent of Americans wanted less immigration and only 6 percent wanted more (Maclean’s, 1990:52).
By contrast, 39 percent of Canadians wanted less immigration and 18 percent wanted more. Whether these more positive Canadians attitudes apply to new racial-minority immigrants is not clear. Canadians’ somewhat more positive attitudes may reflect their country’s different historical and institutional context, rather than cultural predisposition. Postwar Canadian immigration, mostly European in origin, has been a major element of economic and social development policy. In revenge, the United States argue that immigration has ceased to be a development policy and is now perceived as social welfare, and that public support has been declined accordingly. Another delicate subject is intermarriages.
Both Canadians and Americans have become more tolerant of racial intermarriage in recent decades, but Canadians continue to lead Americans in this regard. The 1989 Decima poll confirms the difference: 32 percent of the Americans respondents, but only 13 percent of the Canadians said that they would be unhappy if one of their children married someone from a different racial background. Only 15 percent of Americans, but 25 percent of Canadians said they would be happy (Maclean’s, 1989). Employment discrimination happens more often then we think. Here we shall consider findings from racial discrimination field trials, which have been conducted in comparable ways in Canada and the United States.
In a Toronto field trial conducted in 1984, researchers found that Whites received three times as many job offers as Blacks. Blacks were five times more likely than Whites to be told that a job had been filled when a subsequent White applicant was invited for an interview. The study provided strong evidence that racial discrimination significantly reduced the labour-market opportunities of Blacks in Toronto. Studies, done in the United States by the Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington, between 1990 and 1992, revealed that Blacks were treated significantly worse than equally qualified Whites twenty four percent of the time, and Latinos were treated worse than Whites twenty two percent of the time. The Urban Institute’s Employment and Housing Discrimination Studies (1991) matched equally qualified White and Black testers who applied for the same jobs or visited the same real estate agents.
Twenty percent of the time, white applicants advanced further in the hiring process than their Black counterpart. In one in eight tests, the White received a job offer when the Black did not. The similarity between the results suggests that discriminatory practices are not widely different in the two countries. Also, the both governments are not doing enough to try to abolish this type of practice. They should encourage affirmative action to address continuing problems of discrimination.
Despite the historical differences between race relations in Canada and race relations in the United States, Canadians and Americans are roughly similar in their attitudes and behaviours toward racial minorities. In both countries, the social distance between racial minorities and other groups is diminishing. There is no simple, single explanation, nor is there any simple solution to the problems associated with racism. Nevertheless, there is the hope that by addressing the issue in the context of the goals of society, we will attempt to understand and develop policy to ameliorate its negative effects.